Sunday, July 15, 2007

Following Jesus pt. 1

In his book Following Christ author Joe Stowell relays an account from the life of John Herman, a man who had earned two Ph.D.s and whose lifelong ambition had been to meet the famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow. Darrow became famous (and infamous) for his 1925 defense of the high school teacher John T. Scopes who was accused of having violated a Tennessee law (Butler Act) that forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools because it contradicted the account of creation in the Bible. This case was dubbed the "Scopes Monkey Trial" by the press and was made into a play and motion picture – Inherit the Wind – starring Spencer Tracy as Clarence Darrow. Late in the life of both Herman and Darrow it was arranged for the two men to meet.

"Sitting in the attorney's living room, Herman asked Darrow, 'Now that you've come this far in life and you're not doing much lecturing or teaching or writing…how would you sum up your life?' Without hesitation, Darrow walked over to a coffee table and picked up a Bible. This took the guest by surprise, since Darrow was an atheist who had spent mush of his life publicly ridiculing Scripture.

'This verse in the Bible describes my life.' Darrow turned to the fifth chapter of Luke, the fifth verse. He changed the 'we' to 'I': 'I have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing.'

He closed the Bible, put it back on the coffee table, and looked Herman straight in the face. 'I have lived a life without purpose, without meaning, without direction, I don't know where I came from. And I don't know what I'm doing here. And worst of all, I don't know what's going to happen to me when I punch out of here.'"

In the late 1960s Paul Anka wrote English words to the song, "Comme d'Habitude," by French composer Claude Fran├žois. This resulted in "My Way", which became the signature song for Frank Sinatra; as well as the theme song for many Americans.

To think I did all that;

And may I say - not in a shy way,

"No, oh no not me,

I did it my way".

For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught.

To say the things he truly feels;

And not the words of one who kneels.

The record shows I took the blows -

And did it my way!

In spite of ole Blue Eyes' confident assertion the fact is this: man doing things his way has never led to peace, joy, contentment, or fulfillment. Modern generations have been freer to do things "its way" than any previous generation. If the "lead your own life", "do your own thing", "if it feels good do it" culture was it all that it is cracked up to be then recent generations would be overwhelmed with joy.

That is not the case.

Man can do things his way. He may live a life that is full. He may travel each and every highway. He may plan each course. He may stand tall, love, laugh, and cry. He may say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record may show, that he took the blows, and did it all his way.

But the end result of "all that" is always success void of significance, satisfaction that is short-lived, and enjoyment that is empty. This is because life was not designed to be lived "my way". Life is meant to be lived according to His way!

At the divinely appointed time Jesus Christ came into Galilee preaching the radical message of repentance; a total transformation of the inner man from doing life "my way" to doing life "His way". That message was followed up with a radical call. He said to Peter and Andrew, James and John: "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men" (Mark 1:17). Mark records that Peter and Andrew were casting their nets when Jesus bid them to follow Him. Their response was one of radical obedience: "Straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him".

Zebedee's sons were mending their nets in the boat with their father when Jesus passed and issued this call of followership. Their response was equally radical: "And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him."

Why?! Why did these men who had their own careers, their own lives, their own families and routines and rituals. Why did they drop their nets, walk away from the boat and follow Christ?

The Compelling Christ

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon wrote "he [God] hath set the world in their heart". In other words, God has put eternity in man's heart. Man is created in the image of God, and therefore has an eternal purpose. This explains why nobody (including Solomon who had tried everything) can be satisfied with his or her endeavors and achievements apart from Christ. Life under the sun is empty and vain unless it is lived in submission to the Son!

John Piper writes in his book Don't Waste Your Life:

"God created me – and you – to live with a single, all embracing, all transforming passion, namely a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying His supreme excellence in all the spheres of life…The Bible is crystal clear: God created us for His glory. Thus says the Lord, 'bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory' (Isaiah 43:6-7). Life is wasted when we do not live for the glory of God."

To live for the glory of God in all things, even in your eating in drinking, is to live for Christ in all things, even in your eating and drinking. For Christ "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created…all things were created by him, and for him"
(Colossians 1:15-16).

It is easy to question whether or not these fishermen ever wondered if their lives would amount to more than just piles of fish, the small Galilean towns that surrounded the Lake, and the occasional visit to Jerusalem for the feast days.

Who knows? The Bible does not communicate the psychological or physiological reasons these men may have had for dropping their nets and following Christ. That is because those reasons were secondary at best and unimportant in reality. Peter and Andrew, James and John "straightway forsook their nets, and followed him" because it was Christ who called! This is testimony of the compelling Christ. This was not the summons of a social revolutionary, an ethical philosopher, religious guru, or good teacher. This was the radical call to followership given forth by the Christ, the Son of God.

Why wouldn't you follow Him? He did not come to be served, but to serve "and to give his life a ransom for many"
(Mark 10:45). He was come that "[we] might have life, and that [we] might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). When some fickle followers turned away from following Jesus, He turned to the Twelve and asked, "Will ye also go away?"

Peter's response should be the universal answer. He said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the Living God." (John 6:67-68)

Behold the Lamb of God who is come to take away the sins of the world. Look at the compelling Christ and His marvelous grace which is greater than all our sin. And as you look ask yourself: Why wouldn't I follow Him? Who will you follow if not the Christ?

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